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AARP ranks Minnesota as best state to retire in

ST. PAUL — Retiring in Minnesota has benefits.

AARP, the largest advocate for the elderly in the country, ranks the state as the best place to retire in the country.

According to the organization, Minnesota has far and away the most senior housing units per elderly resident in the country: 125 housing units per 1,000 older adults, compared to the national median of 27. The next-highest state is Wisconsin, with 58 units per 1,000 older adults.

In fact, AARP rated Minnesota the top state in the country on its 2014 scorecard of "services and support for older residents" (Kentucky and Alabama scored worst).

It was the only state to rank in the top quartile for all five categories AARP measured, including affordability, choice of setting and provider, quality of life and care, support for family caregivers and "effective transitions," meaning the ability to move someone from a nursing home back into the community.

Minnesota scored first in the nation in two of those categories: choice of setting and provider, and quality of life and care.

When asked whether Minnesota's reputation might lead to additional retirees moving here — and thus exacerbate what will already likely be a strain on resources — Loren Colman, assistant commissioner for older adults for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said no evidence suggests this.

Still, AARP noted that with all that good news, the cost of long-term support in Minnesota was still unaffordable for middle-income families — nursing homes cost over twice the average household income here.

And in one important area, Minnesota ranked next to last — 49th in the country: The cost to care for somebody privately at home, as a percentage of median household income. Compared with a national average of 84 percent of annual income, the cost in Minnesota was 110 percent.

Some services for the elderly already have registered surprising increases since the first baby boomers hit retirement age.

The Metropolitan Council's Metro Mobility service — a bus and sedan service for those certified as unable to drive — has grown at a much faster pace than expected in recent years.

Back in 1998, the Metropolitan Council did a study predicting the service would have 1.7 million passengers by 2020.

"Those numbers are no longer holding," said Andrew Krueger, a senior manager for the service. "As ridership continues to grow, it continues to get more challenging."

In fact, the Met Council predictions already have been exceeded — the service had 2.1 million passengers over the past year.

Lillie Horton, who's been driving with Metro Mobility for 13 years, said: "One thing I don't like about driving is I get to know them (the riders), and they pass away. I lose 'em."

But Horton still has plenty of regulars. Compared with perhaps a dozen riders a day when she started in 2003, she's up to about 25 a day now.

The service comes with a cost from state's general fund — a subsidy of roughly $26 per ride last year, on top of the $3 or $4 charged to passengers. Over the past five years, the budget of the program has grown from $39.7 million to $62.2 million in 2015.

Krueger said the Metropolitan Council does not have cost projections for the height of the boomer retirement, but it's something it hopes to study.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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